Starbucks is the most popular global coffeehouse chain in the world. There are millions of people who can’t even start their day without stopping at a Starbucks on the way to their 9-5. But it looks like customers may be getting more than they paid for (which is hard to imagine) when they step into their local Starbucks this week. They may be asked to engage in a really uncomfortable conversation about race, and THAT is something I think most customers could actually live without.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has never shied away from hot button topics. I actually really admire him for that. He seems to be a man after my own heart, bringing issues like gun control, gay marriage and jobs for veterans to the forefront. And now, in one of the top 5 ballsiest moves of the year, Schultz is putting the topic of race on the table.
As racially-charged tragedies unfolded in communities across the country, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks didn’t remain a silent bystander. Howard Schultz voiced his concerns with partners (employees) in the company’s Seattle headquarters and started a discussion about race in America.
Despite raw emotion around racial unrest from Ferguson, Missouri to New York City to Oakland, “we at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America,” Schultz said. “Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”
So here’s how it will go: Anybody who’s ever been to Starbucks knows that baristas usually write your name on your cup. It’s what a lot of people like about Starbucks. They make you feel all warm and fuzzy when you’re there. It’s like “Cheers.” But starting this week, baristas will have the option of writing “Race Together” on their customer’s cups to start a discussion about race relations in the U.S. For the record, though Schultz encourages these discussions, he notes that his employees will be under no obligation to actually have “the talk” if they choose not to.
Though I think this idea has potential to take a turn for the worse, I DO admire this guy’s ability to go where no man has gone before. I DO think this could be problematic when it comes to the class/race dynamic (Starbucks workers…possibly POC vs C Level Execs…possibly white male or white soccer moms…) discussing racism over the counter at a coffee shop could get a little intense. But honestly, I’d like to see where this initiative goes. Of course, my opinion on this matter is quite the unpopular one. Check out what the good people of Twitter had to say about Schultz’s decision:
“Do you want cream in your coffee” -Barista
“No, I like my coffee like I like my races, pure and unmixed” -Me
— Bat From State Farm (@TheBatriarchy) March 17, 2015
— Cirque du SoBae (@brownandbella) March 17, 2015
— Wit'sEnd (@Nayrue) March 17, 2015
— Anthony Giles (@Agilesmusic) March 17, 2015
— April (@ReignOfApril) March 17, 2015
— raw sugar (@vidalwuu) March 17, 2015
One of the MANY problems with #RaceTogether is that by design it's intended to make people comfortable, real talk about racism isn't comfy.
— Emma Evans (@TrancewithMe) March 17, 2015
What do you think? Should Starbucks just stick to coffee?